The American Bar Association may object to restrictions the administration placed on civilian lawyers who defend accused terrorists. One point of contention is the government’s ability to listen to conversations between suspects and their lawyers.
In a vote expected next week, the lawyers’ group probably will ask the administration and Congress to loosen some rules and agree to new conditions before civilian defense lawyers join military lawyers in any military tribunal.
An ABA panel’s report, to be released Friday at the group’s annual meeting in San Francisco, outlines problems that some lawyers said would prevent a civilian lawyer from fulfilling the ethical duty to do everything possible to defend a client.
“We are saying these rules restrict the ability of lawyers to fully participate, and that they should be modified,” said Neal Sonnett, a principal author of the report.
Sonnett, a Miami defense lawyer who once represented deposed Panamanian leader Manuel Noriega, said he could not agree to the Pentagon’s conditions and so does not plan to volunteer as a tribunal defense lawyer.
The Pentagon has set no date for the first tribunal, which is a trial similar in many respects to a civilian trial but with fewer rights for defendants. The United States has not used military tribunals since World War II.
The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said it is unethical for civilian lawyers to participate under the current rules.